FOX Soccer Exclusive
It's time for football to come home
It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, football’s coming home.
When FIFA President Sepp Blatter opens that envelope on Thursday morning at FIFA Headquarters in Zurich and announces that England will host the World Cup in 2018, football will finally be coming home -- and not a moment to soon. Fifty-two years is far too long to wait for the return of football’s biggest event.
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This is not arrogance by the way. It’s a simple fact that of the competing bids, the English bid -- although dogged by scandal, mistakes, incompetence and downright stupidity -- is still the one that is closest to the true heart and essence of what football is all about.
The people of England talk, breathe and live football. It’s part of our DNA and our national sport. A passion runs through us and judging by the numbers of people who watch English football on TV worldwide, it is appreciated by more than just your average Brit.
I do concede that the bids of Belgium/Netherlands, Portugal/Spain and Russia have the odd pro or two, but that they should be even considered seriously when up against England is laughable.
Having attended jointly hosted tournaments (World Cup 2002 and Euro 2008), the logistics are a nightmare without even taking into account the language and cultural difficulties that that entails.
Belgium and Holland don’t have the stadiums in place, and other than lining FIFA’s already gilded coffers, does the world really need new stadiums that will become white elephants after just one month (ask South Africa)?
Portugal and Spain don’t suffer from that problem as the majority of their stadiums only require tweaks, but Spain hosted the World Cup in 1982, while Portugal had the Euro six years ago in 2004. Having attended matches between the two countries, the animosity level will go through the roof as joint decisions have to be made on a constant basis.
Russia’s bid looks awesome if you like artists renditions of imaginary stadiums and fancy a bit of time travel between as many as four time zones on yet to be built roads and rail lines.
England is the only choice.
The stadiums are already there and the names of these iconic temples rolls of the tongue.
Wembley (the home of football), Old Trafford (the Theater of Dreams), The Emirates, Anfield, St. James’ Park, The Stadium of Light, Elland Road, Hillsborough. Ask football fans around the world if they recognize these venues and I can guarantee that you’ll get instant recognition, a widening of their eyes and a football story associated with these grounds. The atmosphere in packed English football stadiums is second to none and an unforgettable experience.
The whole country is united behind the bid. From the Football Association, the Government, host cities, players and the general public. Everyone is willing to do their part in making World Cup 2018 the best.
The infrastructure is in place with air, rail and roadways fully equipped and maintained to handle the influx of more than half-a-million fans. It’s easy to travel around and millions of tourists visit the country each year to take in some of the most historic monuments, landmarks and culture any country in the world can provide.
When it comes to hosting major events England has more experience than all the other bidding countries combined. There’s Wimbledon, the Six Nations, Test Matches, and the British Open to name but a few.
The weather is perfect for football in June and July with temperatures that average in the mid 70’s and it is the perfect broadcast time zone as well.
Fan Zones that are now part of the football celebration will be the perfect accompaniment if you should find yourself without a match ticket as English football fans are knowledgeable, friendly and love swapping a pint or ten!
It seems like a ‘can’t miss,’ however there have been problems over the past few years. Stings, corruption allegations, the bid team being reshuffled, gaffes and complacency have led to some FIFA executive members questioning the quality of the presentation.
Ultimately though these concerns should be overlooked because it should be about the one quality that England has for football in spades ... passion.
In Zurich on Thursday, Prince William and David Beckham, two of the heavy hitters amongst the English delegation, will extol this virtue and see to it that the eyes of the football world in 2018 will focus squarely on the home of football because it’s coming home.
Nick Webster is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the English national team and the Barclay's Premier League.